On today’s walk I listened to the latest On Being podcast which featured forest ecologist Suzanne Simard. Suzanne’s research has shown that trees and specifically in forests, are wired for wisdom. There is a complex and invisible communication system that occurs in which the elder trees essentially teach the younger ones how to thrive and survive. So much of it is reflective of how human society also works, on many different levels.
I took the normal walking path that I do around our neighborhood. Most of it grazes the backyards of houses and cornfields. There is a section however that is entirely wooded and has been a sanctuary of mine these last 18 months. I have meditated in these woods. Played and built forts and fairy houses with Audrey in them. I have seen deer and raccoons scamper in front of me on the path. I also have this tendency to place my hands on the trees as I walk by them. I have no idea why I began this, just one day as I was walking along the rough bark was calling out to be felt. So I place my hand upon it and find myself taking a deep breath as if somehow my hand is moving the breath into the tree. Or perhaps my hand is receiving it from the tree. Or both.
I was struck today, listening to Suzanne, about how much healing happens because of the community that surrounds a tree. There is an entire process in place where trees communicate through one another through their own carbon, while at the same time the fungi and root system does the same. I couldn’t help but think about how desperate so many of us are for this kind of system as humans and yet how much we have set ourselves up as a society to work against that need.
I could go on and on about social structures and the performative culture that makes it more important to look like you have it all together rather than actually share openly about our vulnerabilities. Instead, I will simply use the metaphor of the trees that I noticed as I walked out of the woods and back into where all the houses were with the perfectly manicured lawns and landscaping. As my feet hit the pavement, I came upon a single tree perfectly placed in its own bed. Several feet away was another one. And then again, same thing.
I thought about Suzanne’s research and the importance of not only the survival, but the thriving of trees in a forest in relation to other trees. Here were these perfectly kept trees, places between two slabs of concrete in close but not in related proximity to the others. These lone trees are essentially left to fend for themselves and have the job of providing aesthetic beauty to the neighborhood in which it has been placed. Much like the people for whom they exist to please, their value comes more from the beauty they exude than the nutrients for which they are more than capable of providing. The things that would last far longer than their beauty, or even their life span would.
I found myself stunningly aware of this juxtaposition as I walked passed these suburban trees. I wondered, with the complex communication system that they have, can they not hear the trees of the woods calling? Are they not standing there doing their best, yet so longing to be a part of the forest that is only just out of reach. Do they not long to be amongst the mother trees and all of their wisdom so that they can realize even more for themselves beyond just their beauty, but to be a part of the family of trees for generations yet to come?
My hands found their way to the leaves of one of these trees as I walked by. And then another one. And so on. I wanted them to know that while they may feel alone, they are not. That their presence doesn’t go unnoticed and that they are so much more than what they look like. I wanted to recognize that their wisdom still exists inside of them, even as they exist in a much more curated and cultivated society that doesn't always value real and true wisdom.
If one morning I woke up and by some miracle each one of these trees had pulled up their roots and ran away, into the forest to reconvene with all the other trees, I would applaud. I would dance. I would sing and smile all day. For the seeking of wisdom, for the sake of the self and all who surround is a thing to be celebrated.
And so you know, I would do the same for you too.
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is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.